Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Great Northern Adventure, Day 8: This National Park Brought to You by Aramark

Saturday, July 10th.

Luggage out at 06:00, bagels & coffee from the hotel gift shop and coffee bar, and meet the bus at 07:00.  A short ride to the Fairbanks train yard where we boarded the McKinley Explorer for the ~4 hour ride to Denali National Park.

It's a double-decker dome train with all the amenities, including a bartender in each car.  I had a Moose Mary and Jennifer had an Alaskan Mosquito Bite.  If there was booze in those $6.75 drinks, it was undetectable.  Each car features someone else who is expecting a tip for their unsolicited commentary during the ride.

The kids found a way to make their own fun.

We arrived at the Denali Train Depot around 12:30,

and took a five-minute bus ride to our hotel The McKinley Chalet Resort, (an Aramark property).  We didn't have a lot of time, but we dropped our gear and walked to the Denali Doghouse,

bringing Kayley and Krista with us.  We enjoyed some really good hot dogs and burgers, though overpriced, of course.

Walked back to the hotel in time to board an old school bus driven by an over-educated naturalist for a several hour drive around the park.

We saw some moose and birds, the historical Savage Cabin, and some somewhat informative talks by a period-costumed ranger (Aramark) and a real live Athabaskan lady.  We got back around six and tipped the Aramark naturalist/school bus driver a Hamilton.  Kind of a pushy broad, but knowledgeable.

We saw a sign for a pizza place with 49 beers on tap, so it was an instant winner for dinner.

All of us except Ella, Shelley, and Tristan went.  We had at least an hour wait, but that was enough time to sample three different beers whose names I can't recall.  We got a baked chevre, three-mushroom pizza, and a grinder.  We fed Dad again.  The food was pretty good.  Shelley showed up near the end (Ella was asleep in the room) and we took home leftovers to Tristan.  Bed around 11, sunset around midnight.  The weather is beautiful, and we slept with the windows open, enjoying the cool, dry breeze through the aspen and spruce.
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